Self-Advocacy: Preferential Seating
What does it mean?
Acoustically, it means two things:
√ Seated away from a source of noise such as computers, overhead projectors, noisy classroom pets, noisy students, pencil sharpener, etc.
√ Seated near a speaker
Visually, it means the student is sitting near and facing the teacher or whoever is speaking in order to be able to hear better, speechread and see all facial expressions and gestures
In 21st century schools, what does that mean realistically?
As a professional working with students with hearing loss in regular education classrooms, I read the above graphic and see challenges for my students to understand what is being said during the school day.
√ In small group work my student needs to see other group members’ faces and be close to them. Young students need adult assistance in the beginning to position themselves appropriately.
√ If the noise level of the classroom is too loud, my student’s group needs to be able to move to the quietest corner of the room, work outside the room in the hall or work in the library. During an inservice that I did last week with a high school science teacher, he showed me a storage room within his classroom that would be perfect for group work.
√ It is typical in classrooms for the HVAC system to be quite noisy. Many teachers are not aware of that noise because they are used to it and they can easily block it out. My student needs to be as far as possible from that noise source.
√ Teachers no longer stand in one place at the front of the room and do all their teaching but most can give you an area that they frequently use so the student can be seated nearby. However, last week, several secondary teachers told me that their classes are so large that they will stay in one area to teach.
√ For all classes including art, music, p.e., etc., I speak with the teachers before the school year starts and we plan a good place for my student to sit. This frequently changes during the school year so the seating needs to be monitored.
√ For field trips, I talk with the teacher ahead of time to find out the format of the field trip such as small groups with a docent at a museum or large group instruction outside, etc. Then the student and I problem solve where he should be and he communicates that to the teacher.
√ In many of my schools, individually administered classroom based assessments are frequently given in one corner of the classroom while instruction is going on in the rest of the room. All staff need to be aware of the student’s accommodations.
As you can see these situations necessitate the student being proactive and able to request what she needs in a socially appropriate manner.
What kinds of preferential seating scenarios have you run into?